Kenya Airways Warns On Malawi Operations, Launches Dubai Route

The carrier has cautioned that failure to repatriate funds from Malawi will lead to the suspension of operations to the southeast African nation.

Credit: Rob Finlayson

Kenya Airways has suspended ticket sales in Malawi due to challenges repatriating funds from the country.

In a statement, the airline said it has “actively engaged Malawi authorities to find a solution for the repatriation of significant amount of its blocked funds” and has “found it challenging to meet its operational costs and maintain the commercial viability of its operations” in the country.

“Therefore, for continued smooth operations in Malawi, timely repatriation of these funds and a proper mechanism to ensure that KQ funds do not accumulate must be put in place by the Malawi government,” the Kenya Airways statement said.

The statement added: “Under the current difficult circumstances, and to mitigate against further losses moving forward, KQ has been left with no other option but to suspend its ticket sales in Malawi. Failure to collect the funds will lead to KQ suspending its operations in Malawi.”

Kenya Airways has been operating in Malawi since 1977 and currently offers an 8X-weekly service between Nairobi (NBO) and Lilongwe (LLW) using Embraer 190 aircraft.

Earlier this month, IATA warned that the amount of airline funds for repatriation being blocked worldwide by governments has risen by more than 25% in the last six months and the total now stands at close to $2 billion.

The organization said that airline funds are being blocked from repatriation in more than 27 countries and territories, with Nigeria the biggest offender. About $551 million is currently being blocked from repatriation in Nigeria, IATA said.

Kenya Airways’ suspension of ticket sales in Malawi came as the carrier inaugurated a new route between the Kenyan coastal city of Mombasa (MBA) and Dubai (DXB) in the UAE.

The 3,669-km (1,981-nm) route will operate four times per week using Boeing 737-800 aircraft. Data provided by OAG Schedules Analyser shows that the airline plans to offer a Nairobi-Mombasa-Dubai routing, as well as maintaining its existing 10X-weekly nonstop Nairobi-Dubai service.

“The launch of this flight marks yet another dynamic that will go a long way to sustain millions of jobs from the tourism sector in the coast region,” Kenyan Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua said. “By connecting the Kenyan coast to Middle East directly, the travel time is effectively reduced thereby making Kenya the most attractive destination for the Middle East holiday seekers.”

In September 2022, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing announced flexible visa rules for Kenyan travelers as it sought to increase the number of inbound arrivals from East Africa.

Mombasa and Dubai were last connected nonstop in March 2019 when Rwandair ended its 3X-weekly Kigali (KGL)-Mombasa-Dubai service in favor of increasing Kigali-Dubai from 4X-weekly to daily.

Rwandair’s exit from the market came shortly after Qatar Airways opened a 4X-weekly Doha (DOH)-Mombasa route, which operated using Airbus A320s from December 2018 until the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. Since then, there have been no nonstop routes between Mombasa and the Middle East.